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College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (Scholarship Program)


CSPI is a program designed for motivated individuals who demonstrate a high caliber of academic and leadership excellence and who desire to serve their country in the United States Coast Guard. Students currently enrolled, accepted for enrollment or pending enrollment in a full-time bachelor's degree program at designated college or institution (defined in item 6 below) with the desire to complete college and receive a guaranteed commission as an officer in the United States Coast Guard can apply for CSPI.  This means that a student currently pursuing an AA/AS degree at a junior college or community college who plans to continue with their BS/BA degree may be eligible for CSPI if they are accepted for enrollment at a qualifying college.

Students who are accepted into this scholarship program will be enlisted into the United States Coast Guard, complete basic training during the summer, and receive full funding for up to two years of college.  Funding includes not only payment of tuition, books, and fees, but a full-time Coast Guard salary, housing allowance, and medical benefits. 

During the school year, students participate in a minimum of 16 hours a month of Coast Guard activities and are supervised by the Recruiter in Charge (RIC) at their recruiting office. This includes wearing a CG uniform once a week while on campus and during their 4 weekly hours of Coast Guard duties.  During school breaks, CSPI students receive training and exposure to Coast Guard missions and units where they learn about the daily life and duties of Coast Guard Officers and enlisted members. Students may be able to work at a Coast Guard Air Station, a Coast Guard Small Boat Station or a Sector. Students may also be able to participate in a cruise on a Coast Guard Cutter depending on the opportunities available at the time.  Often students are able to complete watch stander qualifications at their unit, which will substantially help them when they become an Officer.

After completing their junior year of college, CSPI students attend a three week leadership training course in New London, CT during the summer; “Officer Candidate Indoctrination.”  Following, college graduation, CSPI students attend the 17-week officer candidate school (OCS) in New London, CT. Upon successful completion of OCS, graduates receive a commission as an ensign (O-1) and an assignment in one of the many exciting Coast Guard mission fields.

Please note: CSPI students who are interested in becoming a pilot for the Coast Guard can apply to the guaranteed flight program; the Wilk’s Flight Initiative (WiFI)

Initial Assignments:

During OCS, CSPI students (officer candidates) compete for positions that will be available to them upon graduation and commissioning. Initial assignments will be within one of the 4 main officer operational specialties, including afloat, aviation, prevention and response.  For any given OCS graduating class, available choices typically include assignment to a/n:

  • Coast Guard Sector: to perform the duties and responsibilities of a prevention officer (focusing on marine safety, vessel inspections, vessel mishap investigations, aids to navigation/waterways) or an enforcement or incident management officer (focusing on law enforcement boardings, pollution investigation and response and operational planning).  Ensigns assigned to sectors also typically perform a duty rotation in the Sector Command Center, which administers, directs, and fuses sector operations on a daily basis on behalf of the sector commander. This includes search and rescue, law enforcement, pollution investigation, incident management, PWCS and Captain of the Port authority.
  • Coast Guard Cutter: to perform the duties and responsibilities of a deck watch officer (cutter navigation and piloting) or an engineering officer in Training (engine room, propulsion plant and machinery system maintenance). Additional duties while assigned to a cutter may include the weapons officer or communications officer.
  • Aviation (training billet): to attend Coast Guard flight school and train to become a Coast Guard pilot.  

Assignment officers work with officer candidates to provide an initial assignment that best meets the needs of the service, and the skills, training, experience, and desires of the individual.  The initial assignment for a junior officer is considered their opportunity to not only lead people and manage resources, but begin learning and excelling in an operational specialty.

Career Path: 

Many junior officers typically receive subsequent assignments in the career field of their initial assignment. Opportunities exist to receive training and qualifications in other specialties, and pursue a subsequent assignment in a different career field and/or a sub-specialty such as intelligence, human resources, engineering and C4IT, international affairs, legal, recruiting, financial management and training.

CSPI Eligibility Requirements:

  1. Age: Have reached your 19th but not your 27th birthday as of 30 September of the fiscal year in which the selection panel convenes.
  2. Character Standards:
    • Applicants currently in the Coast Guard: Applicants are ineligible for commissioning if in the 36 months prior to the first OCS class convening date in the selection cycle, they have been convicted by a court-martial, been awarded non-judicial punishment (NJP), received an “Unsatisfactory” conduct mark, received a mark of less than “4” in any performance dimension, received a negative Administrative Remarks (CG Form 3307), or been involved in an alcohol-related incident.
  3. Citizenship: Must be a U.S. Citizen.
  4. Clearance: Must be eligible for a Secret Clearance.
  5. Dependency:
    • If single, may not have sole or primary custody of dependents.
    • May not have more than 2 dependents (your spouse is considered your dependent, regardless of military status).
  6. Education:
    • ​​Be a sophomore or junior undergraduate student enrolled, accepted for enrollment or pending acceptance (if accepted, acceptance letter must be submitted prior to beginning CSPI) in a full-time Bachelors degree program at an accredited college or university designated as a Minority Serving Institute (MSI).
    • Applicants must have at least 30 resident credit hours accrued by the projected program entry date at an accredited college or university designated as a MSI or otherwise approved by the Coast Guard and:
    • The accredited college or university designated as a MSI or otherwise approved by the Coast Guard must be within 100 miles driving distance of a Coast Guard unit or Coast Guard Recruiting Office unless otherwise approved by CGRC. CGRC will maintain the list of qualifying schools. 
    • The following links are for current federally designated MSIs:
    • Schools not designated as an MSI may be considered on a case-by-case basis provided that they had a minority student population averaging at least 50% of the total student enrollment for the previous three years. If your school is not listed and you are unsure if your school meets the eligibility criteria, please contact your local recruiter.
    • Online Degrees: Online coursework and/or degrees do not qualify.
    • Foreign Degrees: Applicants who have an associate's degree conferred by a foreign school shall include in their application a course-by-course assessment from an organization such as Education Credential Evaluators, in addition to the inclusion of the translation of their degree (if in a language other than English).
  7. Grade Point Average: Must have at least a 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
  8. Financial: Must meet all financial obligations, and not have a debt to income ratio in excess of 30% ratio of debt to projected income at applicant’s accession level (i.e. at the E-3 level).
    • May not have filed for bankruptcy in the last 10 years.
    • Student Loans: applicants shall also disclose to their recruiter any student loan payments that are in deferment, and the anticipated date and amount of repayment of those loans. 
  9. Interview: CSPI applicants must receive the recommendation of a Coast Guard interview board, administered by 3 Coast Guard Officers. 
  10. Military Service:
    • Not required
    • Max Active Duty Service: Have no more than 6 years of non-Coast Guard active-duty military service as of commissioning date, which would be the date that the individual enlists in advance of attending basic training.
    • CG Members: Active duty or reserve members with more than 4 years of active-duty service as of the selection panel date are ineligible. Any CG enlisted member above the pay grade of E-3 that is selected for CSPI will be reduced in rank to E-3 upon commencement of the program.
    • Conditional Release: Members currently in another military service (or IRR) and CG Reservists must furnish an approved DD368 form (conditional release) in their application package.
      • Release approval (validity) period: The release shall be valid, at a minimum, through the date of the panels for which the applicant is applying. Ideally, the release should be valid through the projected accession date for that panel.
      • CG Reservists, CG IRR, and Other Military Service IRR: Recruiters shall submit the DD368 (with only Section I complete) to CGRC Accessions branch at
      • CG Active Duty: do not need a conditional release.
      • Members of Other Military Services (except IRR): The applicant shall submit the DD368 (with Section I complete) through their chain of command to their services’ authorizing official* (which is different for each service).  Once approved, the DD368 and any other approval documents (i.e. Service Memorandum) shall be submitted in the application package.
  11. Physical (Medical): Must pass a commissioning physical (including):
    • Normal Color Vision
    • Meet height/weight standards:
    • CG members: Must meet MAW or Body Fat standards as per COMDTINST M1020.8H
    • Must be able to pass a physical fitness test and swim test prior to graduation from bootcamp and OCS.
  12. Test Score: Receive a qualifying score in one of the following (test scores are valid indefinitely):
    • ASVAB: 109 GT (General Technical score: sum of Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) and Verbal (VE) scores, taken after 1 July 2004)
    • ASVAB: 110 GT (if taken before 1 July 2004)
    • SAT: 1000 (Combined score, taken prior to 1 April 1995)
    • SAT I: 1100 (Combined score, taken from 1 April 1995 to 31 March 2005)
    • SAT: 1100 (Combination of Critical Reading and Math, taken after 31 March 2005
    • ACT: 23 (Composite)
  13. Program-Specific Requirements: 
    • CSPI applicants must be willing to accept and fulfill all requirements of the program Statement of Understanding (SOU).  The SOU stipulates work hours, training, character, academic and administrative expectations of students who have been accepted into the program.
  14. Tattoos: Applicants may not have tattoos or body markings that are inconsistent with the CG tattoo, body marking, body piercing, and mutilation policy. 

CSPI Terms of Service and Appointment Grade:

  1. Selectees enlist in the CG in pay grade E-3 with a four year active duty obligation and a four-year inactive Reserve obligation.
  2. At OCS graduation, CSPI members will be discharged from their enlisted status and commissioned as an O-1 (Ensign) Coast Guard officer with an initial three-year active-duty obligation.

Application Process:

If you are ready to apply, you must visit the “Plan Your Next Move to become an Active Duty Coast Guard Officer” page and follow the application process, which includes downloading the application checklist.